Amanda Maxwell

Jul 5th 2018

Weather Technology To Outpace Storms


Climate change research predicts that we may experience more extreme weather. As the planet warms, increased water evaporation could drive wilder weather, increasing storm frequency and/or intensity. With sophisticated weather technology, climate scientists aim to handle these changes through better prediction or even by manipulating storms before they wreak havoc. More precise data is needed as weather prediction improves, which is why weather technology is looking to space with tools such as satellites and other eye-in-the-sky capabilities.

Here Is the Weather News

At the start of the last century, weather prediction science could let you know fairly accurately what to wear for work the next day. More than 100 years later, the range for long-term forecasting reaches beyond five days and is still advancing, according to The New Yorker. Advanced mapping and data collection meant that residents in the path of the hurricane had around a week to watch and prepare as Hurricane Harvey barreled along.

Being prepared plays a huge role in managing the effects of extreme weather; with advance warning, local authorities are able to provide emergency coverage and move vulnerable residents to safety, minimizing loss of life and structural damage.

Weather Sensing

Data plays a big part in forecasting, feeding into more sophisticated modeling that helps scientists and disaster management agencies understand what to expect. Current technology means that researchers can measure what’s happening in the middle of a storm from the protected radar arrays that monitor tornado activity, or as a global picture from farther away.

Satellites. NASA and other agencies operate both geostationary and orbiting earth-observing satellites. The New Yorker describes sensor technology from high above us that monitors developing weather patterns and collects data on humidity, wind speed, temperature and more that feed into increasingly complex simulation models.

Space Weather Sensing. Sensor technology helps gather data on space weather. NASA explained how improved low Earth orbit arrays let scientists learn how solar activity influences our climate.

Global Hawk. Some retired Northrop Grumman Global Hawks are setting off on a new mission. These unmanned aerial vehicles, repurposed from military surveillance by NASA, take part in weather patrol. Wired explained how a high-altitude vantage point, coupled with extensive range and duration ability, means that a Global Hawk UAV is an excellent tool for long-term monitoring. Gathering data for a few hours or a few days gives meteorologists information critical to enhance weather models and make them more accurate.

Weather Manipulation

Spotting weather patterns is one thing, but there’s also weather technology that lets us change it by manipulating clouds. Cloud seeding isn’t just science fiction, it’s an advancing field in weather technology, both in making it rain and for storm control. Seeding a cloud with glaciogenic or hygroscopic agents such as silver iodide encourages fatter droplet formation and, thus, rain.

Cloud seeding also shows potential for storm suppression. Chemical and Engineering News described how silver iodide seeding reduced hail storm severity over Alberta by 27 percent. Although in theory seeding should work for other storms by altering the precipitation status in clouds, results for hurricane suppression were less impressive, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

UAVs Sensing and Seeding

Problems with cloud seeding, however, include the ability to tell which cloud is the right one to seed and determining the best time to do it. Combining UAV sensing with the ability to deliver cloud seeding with precision could help, bringing cognitive automation to enhance process. A review in Atmospheric Research suggested that using drones to prospect clouds and then deliver seeding precisely into the most receptive areas could push the success of this weather technology. In the future, weather technology could both predict and banish the clouds with accuracy.